EU in Kosovo says Turk, Israeli trafficked organs

By NEBI QENA | June 13, 2011 | 2:29 PM EDT

File - Israeli national Moshe Harel seen handcuffed in this file photo taken on 15 Nov. 2008, is led to courthouse in Kosovo's capital Pristina. Harel was detained by Kosovo authorities investigating allegations of organ trafficking in a Kosovo clinic in 2008 but later released by a UN judge. Harel was indicted last week for involvement in an international human organs trafficking ring, the EU's rule of law mission in Kosovo said Monday, June 13, 2011. (AP Photo, file)

PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — A European Union prosecutor in Kosovo has indicted a Turkish and an Israeli national for involvement in an international network that falsely promised poor people money for their kidneys and then transplanted the organs into rich buyers, the bloc's rule of law mission said Monday.

Turkish national Yusuf Sonmez, and Israel's Moshe Harel were charged last week for "trafficking in persons, organized crime and unlawful exercise of medical activity," the mission, known as EULEX, said in the statement.

Sonmez and Harel are considered at large by EU authorities and Interpol has issued a warrant for their arrest.

The indictments are part of a larger investigation into allegations that an organized criminal group conducted operations in a clinic outside of the capital Pristina where the victims' organs were transplanted into the buyers.

EU prosecutor Jonathan Ratel — who brought the charges in 2010 — said victims were promised up to $20,000 (euro14,000) for their kidneys, while recipients were required to pay between euro80,000 and euro100,000 euros ($115,000-$143,000). The victims came from Moldova, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkey, and lived in "extreme poverty or acute financial distress."

Kosovo law forbids the removal and transplant of organs.

The case was brought to the attention of the authorities in 2008 when Kosovo police acted upon information from a Turkish national who said his kidney had been stolen.

Since then seven Kosovars, including doctors and a senior official in the Health Ministry, have been charged and are standing trial.

Sonmez and Harel were indicted separately after EU investigators located Harel in Israel and an EU prosecutor interviewed Sonmez in Turkey earlier this year. Harel was detained in 2008, but later allowed to leave Kosovo upon the promise of return pending legal proceedings.